The Anthropological Concept of Culture

Writing Culture (Clifford and Marcus 1986) reviewed anthropology’s relationships with writing, especially in the production of ethnographic truths. This landmark publication was followed, a decade later, by the feminist response Women Writing Culture (Behar and Gordon 1996). The literary turn presaged by these and other works encouraged anthropologists to take stock of how identity and power were implicated in ethnographic composition. By amplifying the crisis of cultural representation that was brought to the fore by postcolonial literary theory and the politics of racial and sexual difference, these anthropologists sought to redefine both the poetics and the politics of ethnography. Most recently, two sessions at the 2011 annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Montreal stressed the value of literary modes for accomplishing what conventional ethnography cannot: injecting a personal, multivocal, creative, and emotional element into anthropological writing.

The American Anthropological Association and Disability Research

While Roy Wagner takes the anthropologist view and dissects it.

Here are two of the best encyclopedias for anthropological research.

In 1875-76, the library of the Peabody Museum, perhaps the first specialized anthropological library in the United States, had less than 1000 publications in its collection; by 1975 it had 130,000 (Currier 1976:16).

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By this time there had been developed a tertiary level of periodical publications, giving information about the abstracting journals (Waddington 1977:32-33).I want to use some of these facts in a paper on how this flood of information affects anthropological research.

However, you probably did not learn the citation and bibliographic format used by anthropologists.

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This paper will identify the roles anthropologists today play, such as where they perform the bulk of their work, and what it is they do in both problem solving, as well as policy making....

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Critical understanding of culture in anthropology even extends to questioning anthropological use of the concept itself (see for example Abu-Lughod, 1991). According to this view, culture with its implication of holism, coherence, discreetness and timelessness, freezes differences and the imbalance of power in the ethnographer-informant relationship. In related ways, Farmer (in Scheper-Hughes, 1995, p. 417) criticizes the culture concept for obscuring the human relations that produce suffering. Jackson (1996) further critiques use of the term for its exclusion of the somatic, sensory, and biological from anthropological discourse in favor of the linguistic and conceptual. Despite the cogency of these and other criticisms, culture has yet to be displaced as anthropology's central notion, albeit use of the concept is increasingly couched in terms of this critical discourse.

Currently, many anthropologists consider the field at several crossroads.

Essay on Anthropological Theory

Unlike a report, a research paper presents your analysis and interpretation of the data and ideas found in a survey of the anthropological literature relevant to the topic of your paper.

This is not an exhaustive list of reference works useful in anthropological research.

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Many aspects of current scholarship including cultural studies and a critical movement within anthropology itself cause us to question anthropology's hold on the concept of culture. We need to talk about shifting definitions of culture because disability studies uses the word, and in a not unambiguous way. In European society the original largely agricultural usage of culture (from the Latin colo), as in to culture (Jackson, 1996), underwent some significant changes in meaning by the eighteenth and through the nineteenth centuries. Culture came to denote intellectual, aesthetic, and artistic refinement and products in art, music, poetry, and architecture and legitimated a hierarchy of social distinctions. Anthropology slowly divested the concept of culture of its explicit elitist reference and culture became a more generalized attribute of human groups. Thompson (1990) presents the two most common anthropological orientations to the concept of culture. In the descriptive conception, "the culture of a group or society is the array of beliefs, customs, ideas and values, as well as the material artifacts, objects and instruments, which are acquired by individuals as members of the group or society (1990, p. 129). In the symbolic conception, "culture is the pattern of meanings embodied in symbolic forms, including actions, utterances and meaning of objects of various kinds, by virtue of which individuals communicate with one another and share their experiences, conceptions and beliefs" (p. 132).

Anthropological Index to Current Periodicals in the Museum of Mankind Library.

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Anthropologists of today have a very different focus from their predecessors, who would focus on relating problems of distant peoples to the Western world.